I think I’ll stick with my occasional viewings of Portlandia from now on, because Portland, you’re kind of a dump. I love you Powell’s Books, and Deshutes, you were nice too, but the rest of the city? What’s going on? You need a shower and a change of clothes.
And by “I love you Powell’s Books” I mean, I love you Powell’s books, because except for that really bubbly cashier, no one else in that store seemed happy to be there. Employees weren’t particularly eager to help their customers, and the customers, for their part, felt no need to hide the fact that you, their fellow browser, were a major inconvenience to them.
One couple actually squeezed their way in between me and the shelf I was looking at and backed up onto me until I was forced out of the aisle so that they might browse that shelf. I’d never had that happen before. When I looked around me to suddenly realize I was no longer in the aisle, I was actually impressed with them. Then I went and cried in the corner.
I whispered to Dave as we circled a pair of employees at the information desk, “Don’t tell anyone I work for Barnes & Noble, they might kick me out.”
I was joking. Besides, it didn’t matter. They would have had to recognize that Dave and I were there first.
I’d forgotten, this was an independent bookstore. You know who works in corporate, soul-sucking bookstores? College kids, retail lifers, book lovers who thought it’d be neat to work with books all day before corporate America incinerated them from the inside out, and people who probably don’t even read and will do whatever they’re told for a paycheck.
Who works in independent bookstores? Artists. They’re not there to make money or help customers, they’re there to be surrounded by their art man, until they hit it big, you’ll see.
So even though Dave and I were clearly looking for something and talking to each other about where in this two story multi-room bookstore neither of us was familiar with, we could check to look for our Ninja Turtle comic books, the pair at the information desk were content to talk to each other about their preferences in Science Fiction rather then us.
I can understand now why my bosses make such a big deal out of greeting customers on the sales floor, acknowledging that they are in the store, that they exist on the same plane of reality. Most people won’t ask for help, not until they’re engaged first. They really want to believe they can find things on their own, even in a store they’ve never been in before.
I guess I just don’t understand why everyone is so standoffish out here. I know in Buffalo we joke about everyone knowing one another and being overly friendly, and I’m not even looking for that out here anymore. How sad is that? I don’t even want you people to be friendly towards, I would just like you to stop looking through me or flat out ignoring me when I say excuse me, or try to walk down the sidewalk that is actually wide enough for both of us.
It may have been a combination of it being evening and the area of the city we were in, that led to this negative opinion. My friends abandoned us at Powell’s to search for Voodoo Doughnuts and told us to meet them there. It wasn’t too far either, six blocks? Six blocks, two strip clubs, a half-nude mannequin with a painted face and leather fetish, a sketchy as hell gas station, two burned out cars, one stabbing, a stray cat very vocal about its displeasure in being covered by what I hope was only motor oil, a clown on stilts who warned us we were wandering into the Red Triangle Circus Gang’s turf, 37 homeless people is various stages of decomposition, and a very large Cheshire cat that winked at me and then vanished into thin air.
I may have exaggerated that list a little, I’ll let you decide what was made up.
Do you remember in Back to the Future II when Marty first gets to the center of town in the altered timeline, and there’s trashcan fires and motorcycle gangs, and neon lights all around him? That’s how it felt walking down to Voodoo Doughnuts, and this was a Wednesday night. I think on Fridays things really get going when they bring out the Thunderdome and hold homeless death matches. There’s certainly enough contestants, just check any doorway.
The homeless guy that stood three feet from our table outside of Voodoo while we ate our heart disease and yelled, “Change!” repeatedly until finally wandering off to reclaim his section of sidewalk, could be the referee for Thunderdome Portland. He had excellent projection.
I didn’t get a doughnut. I wasn’t in the mood and they were too over the top, wasn’t my kind of place. Sprinkles are as crazy as I get when it comes to doughnuts, and usually, I’m fine with plain. Classic doughnuts, we’ll call them. I don’t need the Captain My Captain with Captain Crunch all over it, the Maple Blazer Blunt or a Cock-N-Balls, or whatever had bacon on it, or twelve dozen other different kinds of diabetes on an overpriced doughnut. You didn’t even know there were that many kinds of the diabeetus did you? You’re welcome.
Even on day two in Portland, when we promised to keep an open mind, we had a hard time getting comfortable. It was just so cold and… trendy. In Canoe, a store on SW Alder Street, there was a carved wooden dog no more than five inches high selling for $130 and watches for over a thousand. Unless these things can stop time, I can’t understand wearing a watch that cost me a month’s wages. But, obviously, that watch isn’t being marketed to someone in my paygrade. I get it, I’m in a city, I’m downtown, things are expensive. But it isn’t that nice a city. We never screamed, “Isn’t it fun to be downtown!” like we normally do on Baseball Trip. Because it wasn’t.
A lot of the stores seemed full of themselves, but we did come upon a gaggle of food shacks on SW Alder between 9th and 11th Streets. At first we thought they were all food trucks, but as we got up closer we realized they were all part of a food marketplace that stretched a couple blocks.
After the eighth text from our friends to meet them on Sixth Street (no cross street, just Sixth) we decided we should head over, since clearly, based on their insistence to meet them there, there must be naked women handing out free beer down there.
We didn’t make it that far, instead coming upon 12th Street and Burnside. There we found some cool restaurants, the winner for lunch being Henry’s 12th Street Tavern. A little fancier looking inside then its name implies, it had an extensive beer selection, including a Rye IPA made only for the restaurant. Also they had a burger stuffed with cheese, bacon, onions and jalapeños, then topped with more cheese. More importantly, they had waffle fries smothered in Gouda.
Henry’s was a great bookend to our Portland trek, since the evening before we’d started out at Deschutes Brewery on 11th and Davis for dinner. Our reason for going there was fifty/fifty; amazing beer and elk burgers. Out of nine of us, six got flights which let those guys sample six different beers, so between us we pretty much tried everything they had that was worth trying.
There were t-shirts purchased, glasses stolen and burgers destroyed. The place was a little touristy, but our waiter was great, the beer was awesome and the food offered us a few things we’d never had before. What more could you ask for? Another pretzel. That’s what more I could ask for: that giant circular soft pretzel with its spicy mustard and melted cheese dipping sauce was tits; I could have eaten twelve more and left Portland a happy camper.
Instead, a cable car ripped off our side mirror, I wandered into the Biff Tannen Pleasure Paradise and for the first time in my life seriously questioned whether or not I was going to be stabbed to death over a doughnut. Eh, what are you gonna do?
On to Seattle, I guess….